Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What is 'being smart'?

Somebody I care very much about recently claimed not to think of herself as being particularly smart. I vehemently disagreed, and this is what I told her:

Here's my personal opinion on "smart." There are at least three parts to it. One is "intelligence" which is a capacity that we inherit from our ancestors and are individually born with. One is "education" which is a function of luck, money, opportunity, and willingness to work. And one part is "wisdom" which comes from observation, experience, and internalizing ("drawing lessons," "taking things to heart," etc.; this part increases with age, usually but not necessarily).

Someone once asked me (curiously, not accusingly) if I considered myself smarter than the rest of the family because I had a college diploma! Good Lord, NO! I had more opportunities for education, and the drive to seek out education over other things. I consider all of us in our family of equal intelligence, don't you? I think it's the DNA stuff we were born with. Unless forceps at birth cause brain damage or something, we've all come out with the bright-eyed base alert intelligence bred into us by the canny ancestors who were smart enough to flee the Old Country and start over as Americans (self-selection of the fittest there!). In intelligence I don't believe I could exceed anyone else in my family including the immigrant that landed here and swung a hammer or raised 10 kids or plowed fields for years--they were all pretty shrewd people who knew which way the wind blew and made the most of it.

As far as education, all I can claim is having had preparation for, and access to, a university, and the interest to take advantage of that. Who knows which teachers we all had that over time and in random moments from K-12 encouraged or discouraged those channels of interest and drive among us? Each of us in my family had a very different path, growing up, although we came from the same parents and grew up in the same household. The parents were different, older or younger people, for each of us, too, with different interests, energies, and goals at different times. And politics and people and opportunity outside the household plays the biggest part in education, I think. In other words, that is almost overwhelmingly chance, not innate. And education almost never ensures true smarts. Think of all the smart, but uneducated people there have been (like our ancestors, and many of the world's greatest inventors and entrepreneurs), versus all the so-called over-educated, wrongheaded dolts. Yet, I don't disparage education per se: it can be the greatest, fastest way to open and expand a mind in positive directions for the benefit of the individual and the world. That's why I so respected my father for being a self-educated man all of his life, since he could not become the educated man he wanted to be in his youth. His attitude (and Mom's, top student in the one-room schoolhouse, and 8th grade valedictorian!) affected me greatly in wanting to take advantage of my chances at getting the best education I could. From them I learned that education is the one best investment you can make in yourself and your future that can never be taken away from you.

That realization was perhaps WISDOM that was passed on. Wisdom is like education, but it's harder to recognize and it's usually not formally learned. Life lessons, the school of hard knocks, these are more usual ways to describe how one grows wise. I also believe by reading proverbs, history, great literature, autobiographies, or listening to stories of others one can also internalize wisdom without having to experience the depths others had to. At least sometimes. The youth are notorious for ignoring the wisdom of their elders passed on too freely so that it seems of little worth. Then later they rue the day and learn their lesson in tears, as many lessons have to be learned. It is unfortunate, but that is humanity for you.

Well, that is my little homily for today. Anyway, please don't ever call yourself or think of yourself as unintelligent, unwise, or unsmart. You are none of those things! And anyone who is uneducated but who wants to remedy that situation can do so in today's USA, praise God. And they don't have to go to college or spend a fortune to do it. One only needs perseverance, patience, interest, diligent habits, good guidance, and some luck.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A 9/11 Tribute to Shreyas Ranganath

Srinivasa Shreyas Ranganath was beloved and admired by people who knew him on two continents.

He was born January 4, 1975 in the southern Indian town of Bhadravati, and grew up in the big city of Bangalore. “Shreyu” was remembered by family and friends as a sharply intelligent, fun-loving boy, with a mischievous grin, an outstanding singing voice, and a twinkle in his eye. He was the rallying central figure in the informal but intense cricket matches and hide-and-seek games that he played so passionately with neighborhood friends on warm summer nights in the streets or in the backyard of his family’s home. Even as a youngster “Shreyu” seemed to have more than a hint of the hero and the role-model about him—many of his friends sensed it, and no one looked up to him and admired him more than did his own younger brother, who knew him best.

As Shreyas grew older and attended middle school and high school with his friends, he was transformed into a serious and diligent student devoted to his education--not afraid of hard work and very willing to immerse himself in books. Yet along with his mental talents, he also had a generous spirit. At 16, while a member of the National Cadet Corp and attending a camp event, he pretended to be 18 years old so that he might, along with the adults there, donate blood to the wounded soldiers in the Indian Army. It was evident to many who knew him that Shreyas was “a great soul.”

He studied at the Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering in Bangalore, and lived in the Basavangudi area of the city. But his interest in seeing the world and “meeting people of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs” brought him to the United States, where he enrolled in the master’s degree program in Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah. Completing only one semester (Fall 1999), he decided to return to India—either because of health problems, as one source said, or because he found the winters in Utah too cold. Friends and colleagues who knew him in Utah remember him as soft-spoken, “the sweetest person I’ve ever known,” and “a very sincere student, very quiet, not into parties.” He did, however, like eating the sandwiches at the local Subway deli.

Back in his hometown of Bangalore, Shreyas developed a new passion. Once the center of British colonial rule in South India, Bangalore is now the country’s third-largest city with a population of over 6 million, and is known as India’s “Silicon Valley,” the center of high-tech innovations. There Shreyas became an expert professional in software design. “For him, it became an addiction,” said one friend. “He had a great love for software.”

He landed a job at Wipro Technologies, a global software services company, and “the largest independent R&D services provider in the world.” He worked long 16- and 18-hour days as a code-cruncher, but loved the work. And he still found time to help others, including bright young kids from his neighborhood who needed financial help to stay in school.

At the age of 26 he, along with three other colleagues from Wipro-Bangalore, was sent abroad to work as a software consultant on a three-month project for the firm of Marsh & McLennan Companies, a global professional services firm which in 2001 had 57,000 employees and an annual revenue of $10 billion. Once again Shreyas found himself able to visit the United States, enjoying his work while seeing new places and meeting new people (with his Sony Walkman as his “constant companion,” usually playing his favorite songs by the Irish rock band U2). He was assigned to work specifically for Marsh Inc., an insurance brokerage subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, located on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One in Manhattan.

A longtime friend and fellow employee of Wipro offered to share his Hackensack, New Jersey home with Shreyas and one of the other three consultants on the same assignment, Shashi Kiran L. Kadaba, a young man who was engaged to be married the following year. These three men spent many congenial evenings together, cooking elaborate meals of gourmet Indian food, or watching Hindi movies. Shreyas “appreciated Hollywood movies,” said the friend, “but he had a great taste for Indian movies.” On the evening of September 10, 2001 the three consumed “a wonderful dinner” in honor of the birthday of the Hindu god Krishna.

The following morning, a clear and beautiful Tuesday, Shreyas Ranganath and his three fellow colleagues from Wipro in Bangalore (Hemanth Kamar Puttur, Deepika Kumar, and Shashi Kiran Kadaba) reported for work as usual. When they spoke by telephone with their immediate superior in Bangalore, “the four sounded cheerful, at the beginning of yet another busy day in New York.” About an hour later they were murdered along with 291 other employees and associates of the Marsh & McLennan Companies who worked on floors 93 to 100 of the North Tower, where the first airliner hit. Forty-six other Wipro employees present in New York City that day were spared.

Shreyas Ranganath touched the hearts of many people in his short life. He had a certain quiet charm, a twinkle of fun, and an easy, sweet nature that many would later remark upon. His hard-working diligence, his excellence in his chosen field, and most of all, his generous spirit were his gift and inspiration left to the world. Wipro named a hall in Bangalore in his honor; the Marsh & McLennan monument and website bear his name. But more permanent than stone are the memories of small kindnesses and the not-so-small contributions he left and still leaves in the lives of the people he personally touched as he passed.

Shreyas Ranganath is not forgotten.

I have reposted this tribute (first run on September 11th, 2006 as one of the 2,996 stories told by The 2,996 Project). I did not know Shreyas Ranganath but after having written his story, I am sorry I didn't. I will not forget him. In fact, I have sponsored an Indian girl through Children International for the last few years, who my family and I are now supporting through college in India. I would not have thought to carry on his legacy like this if I had not written this memorial and been inspired by Shreyas Ranganath.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Half-day Kindergarten Curriculum, 1959-1960

BLAST FROM THE PAST...I found this handwritten, mimeographed handout among some old papers my mother recently gave to me. It is evidently the handout given to my parents from my Kindergarten teacher at the beginning of my school career. I am sharing it here as both a curiosity and a public service, as a look back to a simpler, less hurried time, when America's children mostly came from two-parent families with a mom at home and were arguably better educated in the public grade schools.

Kindergarten Curriculum

Kindergarten is a time for growth and adjustment. The young child must adjust to a new authority figure, the teacher, and to a new and larger number of playmates than he has been used to, and to a completely new environment. It is exciting to be away from mother and home but it is also a bit frightening at first.

A daily routine is usually established from the beginning day. This helps teach the children to follow directions, accept responsibility, plan in an orderly manner, and gives a sense of security. We hope to help them develop independence in dressing themselves and caring for their individual needs.

Each day the children have an opportunity to use a variety of materials in the room. As the child learns to share with others and appreciate their rights, social values are fostered. He learns to use his time well, to complete the tasks he begins, and to take proper care of the materials he uses. He develops self-control and reliance.

Activity time helps the children learn to take part in group activities, await their turns, share with others and help them identify with a group. Use of equipment provides an opportunity to build large muscles and develop coordination.

Good health habits are important too. This includes caring for toilet needs, cleanliness, regular rest periods, 12 hours of sleep every night and properly planned nourishment.

Nature and science are also planned for in the curriculum. We strive to make the children aware of nature and the natural processes which occur.

Creative expression is very important in the total development of the child. It gives him an opportunity to explore with various types of art media and other forms of expression. Music provides a free and natural response for growth in musical expression. We also strive to help the child enjoy rhythm and singing and develop a good singing voice.

Story time introduces new words and meanings into vocabulary. It aids in developing the ability of interpreting pictures and following a sequence of ideas and becoming a good listener.

Later in the year the children will receive Reading readiness work books. They will learn to print their first names correctly and write and understand the numbers from one to ten.

All through the year we strive to develop readiness in the children, keeping in mind the areas which will be necessary for them for first grade work.

I also found several mimeographed worksheets featuring Mother Goose rhymes--"Jack and Jill," "Little Miss Muffet," "Jack be nimble," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Humpty Dumpty,"Hickory Dickory Dock," "Mistress Mary quite contrary," "Little Boy Blue," "Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?" and "Hey Diddle Diddle." I and the other children had illustrated each rhyme with crayons and had each produced a "book" for our parents to keep. I doubt any public school children ever learn these rhymes (or this vocabulary) nowadays. Not edgy or relevant enough for today's adults, I trow.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

How to find a summer job

So you need or want to find a job—maybe your first job—this summer, either to earn funds for school or to burnish your skill set, or both. It’s time to tuck your Social Security card into your wallet and print out a stack of resumes. But then what do you do? I can’t speak about the new technologies like, but I can tell you how to find a summer job the tried and true old-fashioned way, based on my past successful experience. The most important part is how you strategize and attitudinize before you hit the pavement. Then, it all comes down to how hard you work at it. Finding the job and getting hired is the first and probably the hardest part of the work you do having a summer job!

Internships—a special case

First, are you in a position to distinguish between aiming for the money, or for the experience? If you are more interested in a formal internship, perhaps even fortunate enough to be able to consider an unpaid internship in order to gain an opening and contacts in your chosen field, you must figure out the specific logistics of how to apply, how and where you will live, and what transportation, funds, and other support you will need to pull it off. Usually internship programs have very structured, competitive, formal application procedures and deadlines that you need to know and follow. Some of the other advice below may apply to your work situation nevertheless, so read on and then use your best judgment.

“I just want to make some money!”

The vast majority of summer jobs for young people are not internships—they just pay you money to get you to show up and put forth your promised time and effort in a dependable manner for the contracted time period. Ideally, a well-chosen summer job will help you acquire new skills and contacts for your specific future career, making it a more interesting learning period for you. The bottom line, though, is that you at least want to spend your summertime industriously socking away some savings. And even the least glamorous summer job can go on your developing resume to show that you are mature enough to be employable. If you succeed at your summer job, you will make new friends and have good references for future work and better jobs up the capitalist ladder. The best part, though, is the nest egg in your bank and knowing that you (unlike the sloths on the beach) have used your mind, your time, and your energy wisely to advance and enrich yourself.

Attitude is everything

First of all, you must realize that there is no job too lowly for you to take, if you are honorably and honestly paid for legal work, and you do your part to fulfill your promised contract. The great part about a summer job is that the time period you are committed to is limited. But that is also the worst part about a summer job from the viewpoint of most employers. Why should an employer go to all the trouble to hire someone, file all the paperwork and deal with the legal and personnel hassles, train that person, trust that person to show up and perform properly and honestly, and then lose that person in a few short weeks? What’s in it for the employer? The sooner you start thinking like an employer, the sooner you will understand what it is you must convey and deliver in order to land a summer job.

Are you worth it for an employer to hire you? It is a considerable outlay of money and effort for an employer to even sign you on (the paperwork and legal requirements are tremendous these days). As a worker, are you worth the Federally-mandated minimum wage? Will you steal from him? Will you show up when you’re supposed to, or will they have to be scrambling to cover your absence? Will you work as you promise to, or will you come in late, sneak out early, take long breaks, disappear for lunch, or spend too much time yakking or web-surfing instead of working?

Do you care about the quality of your work? Can you learn the skills you are being hired to provide? Are you agreeable, friendly, presentable, well-mannered and well-groomed, or will you have “attitude” or “people problems” on the job? Will you be an asset as a representative of your new company? You are asking an employer to take a risk on you, an unknown quantity, in a time of recession and high unemployment. Why should he or she hire you at all, or instead of someone else older or more experienced?

These are the questions you must ask and answer for yourself before you even put together your resume.

You are not going out as a supplicant looking for a handout. Neither are you God’s gift to the community owed the entitlement of a job. You are seeking a voluntary contract with an employer for mutual benefit at agreed-upon terms. And your first, major hurdle is that you must convince the employer that you will uphold your end of the deal and are worth the risk. You must make the employer feel as excited and satisfied to hire you as you will be excited to have landed your summer job. You must make the employer feel that you have a great work ethic, will fit in happily with your coworkers, and will understand how you can fulfill what the company needs—and are happy to have the chance to do that and more.

And then while you are working at your summer job, every day you must make your employer even more happy he hired you than ever. Project a flexibility and enthusiasm to do whatever is needed to help out. Wow them with unexpected efforts, with creative, helpful work, with a thinking mind and elbow grease applied on the company’s behalf—and you will be on your way to a stellar career in whatever field you choose. From stopping to pick up a gum wrapper on the way in to work, to offering a well-thought-out suggestion on how things might be done more efficiently—the person giving more than what’s expected, who arrives early and is okay with leaving late, who is cheerful to be called beyond the call of duty and who can rise to any occasion, is the person most likely to succeed not just in any given job, but in life. This is the attitude to take with you on the job hunt and into every job.

As a very successful self-made businessman* once said in the depth of the Great Depression:

“There is as much opportunity today for the youth with ambition as there ever was. I would advise a young man: Always do more than you are expected to do and if you see something that needs to be done, do it yourself.”

Looking for work

So how do you find summer job prospects in a down economy? Start by telling everyone you know (friends, relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, Facebook, former teachers, folks from church and clubs) that you’re looking for a summer job. Check with your school’s placement office for referrals--and tips on job-seeking, interviewing, and crafting a current resume. Do research online and even check the classified ads sections of local newspapers (don’t laugh, I landed a typist’s job through a classified ad and three weeks later was promoted to Head Copywriter in a small publishing company—it happens).

The important thing is landing an interview where you can try to impress an employer with your presence, character, and thought-process in a face-to-face meeting—called “getting your foot in the door.” Meanwhile, be prepared to be surprised and take advantage of unexpected turns of fortune—and don’t pass up a good job because you are waiting for the perfect job that won’t materialize. After all, it’s only for the summer. Every week you're looking is a week you're not earning money.

Along with following up on any leads your personal networks can give you, you’ll want to start visiting companies and businesses in person to leave your (targeted) resume, fill out applications, and hope for a face-to-face meeting with the hiring person. At this phase you’re doing field research and practicing your business interview skills. But how to tackle this big area of possibilities? Begin by deciding what kind of business you’d most like to work for (retail stores, food service, computers, an office environment, driving/delivery, teaching, medical, entertainment, outdoor work). Focus first on firms you think might be hiring summer workers. Start with those companies closest to you geographically. Then do your research, prepare your resume, suit up, jump in, and start making the rounds.

If nothing turns up, don’t let up. Start looking farther afield, both as to kinds of businesses, and location. You should be working on sending out resumes and visiting businesses every day. Think about devoting a day to hitting a mall, or a neighborhood, and visiting every storefront. If one place is not hiring, ask if they know who is. Even if nothing comes of two or three weeks of such diligence, here is a real-life education you can get no other way and as such, it’s an investment in yourself.

Be sure to research the firms you are most interested in working for, so you can visualize the interview from their side of the desk, knowing their specific business needs and goals and how you can help them. Google makes this kind of research so easy these days! And don’t forget to make early contact with businesses that rely heavily on summer seasonal hiring of young people, such as amusement and water parks, summer and day camps, tourist venues, nature centers and parks, and tutoring services—they are used to evaluating and hiring young people for limited periods, and are already geared up to process job-seekers like you.

Another option is registering at a temp work agency if there is one in your area. If you have any keyboarding, software, or certain other skills they may be able to find you temporary jobs in your area starting the following day. Manpower is one of the oldest and largest such agencies. There are also government agencies and government jobs programs you may want to look into if all else fails and you don't mind the blind, slow-grinding wheels of bureaucracy and political patronage.

The sooner you start your job hunt the better. After all, there are thousands of young people out looking for the same jobs.

Don’t forget to stay organized, keep your paperwork straight, remember names and spell them properly, have someone proofread your resume, and be sure to send your handwritten, personally directed thank-you notes immediately following any interviews you have. Don’t be stingy; send them everywhere and to anyone who takes a moment to help you. This human touch of good manners and appreciation on your part may distinguish you from the crowd and result in your getting the call back for another interview or an outright job offer.

After you have acquired the skills and spent the time to land a job, and then spent your summer weeks working hard and saving cash, you will be relieved and proud to be able to head back to school where (if you don’t have to have a job working while in school) all you have to do is please and invest in yourself for the next nine months, instead of pleasing and working for an employer. You will have a new appreciation of the dynamism of the working world—and the luxuries and freedoms of the academic world.

*Jacob P. Goettel (1861-1941), a leader in clothing merchandizing in Syracuse, New York.

Read more:

How to land a summer job

How to write a resume

Friday, December 31, 2010

Books I read in 2010

Not an impressively long list--because I was busy this year doing other things besides reading as much as I might have liked.

1. Sparrowhawk Book Five: Revolution by Edward Cline

2. Please Stop Laughing at Us...One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying by Jodee Blanco

3. Sparrowhawk Book Six: War by Edward Cline

4. Sparrowhawk Companion by Edward Cline

5. 300 Jahre Pfälzer in Amerika / 300 Years Palatines in America by Roland Paul, editor

6. I Passed as a Teenager by Lyn Tornabene

7. 1939: The Lost World of the Fair by David Gelernter

8. A Clueless Man’s Guide to Relationships: What Women Know Instinctively About Relationships—But Men Have to Learn by Kelly C. Fisher

9. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

10. Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love by Dorothy Tennov

11. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen

12. World History Series: The Chinese Cultural Revolution by David Pietrusza

13. Coolidge: An American Enigma by Robert Sobel

14. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson

15. Northern Drift: Sketches on the New York Frontier by John Golden

16. Taking Back the United Methodist Church by Mark Tooley

17. Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg

18. World History Series: The End of the Cold War by David Pietrusza

Happy New Year!

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Progressive politics and the United Methodist Chuch

I found this good summary and update on the United Methodist Church's political and lobbying involvement in passing Obamacare this past year and thought I would post it: UMC Facing Health Bill Fallout.

Since then I have discussed this with my pastor and declined to sign a membership pledge card for the coming year. For now I continue to attend my local UMC, and donate only to local missions, not to any official UMC membership apportionments to the national or international bodies. I regret I can't now support the good things these bodies do, but I don't know any other way to make sure that my donations do not go to support damaging leftist political agendas or the General Board of Church and Society's partisan activities. I am wondering if the UMC will soon revoke its stand on health care as a "right" or disband the out-of-control GBCS in my lifetime.

I wonder what revelations another year will bring--and if by 2012 I will still be a Methodist. At least it is encouraging to see (from the above article and comments) that I am not alone.

My previous post on this.
Health care is NOT a right.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

After Christmas

I am enjoying "family time" after a lovely Christmas here at home, which included elder relatives staying with us. The urge to blog here over the last several weeks of holidays has been so far completely subsumed by my commenting on other sites and by my ability to "Share" with my Facebook Friends various things I read or see on the internet, with a simple push of a button. Yes, even I have a Facebook page. I don't know if that means I will not be blogging any more at all, but for now I don't feel the need. After five years, is it time for me to call it quits with Thought You'd Never Ask and move on to other venues? Is anyone still asking me anything at all?

Friday, November 26, 2010


A day late (since I am finally able to sit down and surf the web), here are two excellent Thanksgiving messages:

From Robin of Berkeley: "My First Thankful Thanksgiving" -- no longer a liberal, she now recognizes she's blessed

From Mark Steyn: Americans should be thankful they have one of the last and longest functioning sovereign nation-states and "The World Should Give Thanks for America"

Hear, hear. And as a bonus, here's a concise lesson from Milton Friedman that all Americans should know and understand by heart: there is no free lunch.

All links courtesy of Maggie's Farm.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Disney's dumping princess stories

according to the LA Times:

"By the time they're 5 or 6, they're not interested in being princesses," said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children's lives. "They're interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values."

MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, knocked the toy industry's blond bombshell off her stilettos by recognizing how little girls' interests have morphed.

"You've got to go with the times," MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian said. "You can't keep selling what the mothers and the fathers played with before. You've got to see life through their lens."

Well, isn't that comforting. Walt would be proud.

Kids who are interested in being hot or cool at age 5 or 6 are so sad. It makes me infuriated at their stupid parents.

We've never owned one of those obnoxious Bratz dolls, and I wouldn't give one to any little girl as a gift. I steer my kids away from that kind of merchandizing just as I steer them away from the Snoburbia glitz of Britny Spears, etc. I did spring for one of the beautiful American Girl dolls--that company seems to see things through the eyes of the little girls I know and love, and I was happy to support them.

Thankfully in lieu of whatever the forward-looking honchos at 21st-century Disney will now be animating, we can still count on our DVDs of classic-era Disney fare to entertain our kids.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Life in snoburbia

That's pronounced "SNOB-burbia." As in obnoxious affluent people with an entitlement attitude, helicopter parents, and 7-year-olds playing lacrosse, learning kung fu, and chatting on their cellphones. This lady lampoons the lifestyle and culture as her hobby. Which I find pretty funny, since I too now live in a snoburbia (though I am not OF snoburbia and never will be if I can help it).

I am more of a mislocated Germanic Yankee Puritan-hillbilly-curmudgeon, a product of a very uncool rural lower-middle-class suburb of the 1950s (think "A Christmas Story") and a middle-middle-class bedroom-commuter California suburb of the 1960s (think "Poltergeist"). Consequently I am both too old and too much of an inbred perverse-reverse-snob to be a part of the flock of trendy young snobs in the well-off affluent suburbs in which we have lived since having kids. (After all, I do iron all my husband's dress shirts, do my own housework and yardwork--not "gardening"--and have never had a professional manicure!) We live in snoburbia now for the schools, of course--where my husband's hobby is counting all the BMWs and Mercedes around here under his breath, and where my kids specialize in surviving the shadows cast by snoburbian teenagerdom.

Surviving snoburbia creates character! Experiencing snoburbia is an American blessing! Reading about snoburbia makes me laugh. Too true.

Going forward through the next two years--and goodbye to California

Bookwork Room gives a good wrap-up of Tuesday's historic election day. See also the series of posts at Power Line, "Wasn't That A Mighty Storm?" parts one through six. Of course I've been glued to the internet, talk radio, and Fox News since 7 p.m. on election day, digesting the results. No need (and no interest) for me to add anything to all these great thinkers, topped by George Will.

Danny Lemieux writes a good summary post about our reasons for optimism in going forward. I agree. I do have a personal sadness for the states of California and New York, however. In fact, I have lived in California, Illinois, and New York and I have people I care about living in each of these places now seemingly firmly in the clutches of liberals bent on taking them down. As Lemieux writes:

As for Illinois, California and New York: let there be justice in Democrats presiding over and taking full credit for the disasters they have created. The problems in these two states are far too deep for any change in administration to resolve – the Titanic is already butting up against the iceberg. Schwarzenegger tried and failed to change California. Chicago’s Mayor Daly, smart man that he is, decided to retire before the proverbial financial *.* hit the fan, as Chicago’s debt obligations are far too great for it to dig itself out (rumor has it that Daly is part of a consortium that is positioned to buy-out the lucrative McCormick Expo Center, when it is inevitably privatized to help pay down the debt Daly created). Jerry Brown (CA) and Pat Quinn (IL) are just the buffoons to take their bows at their states’ collapse. Andrew Cuomo (NY)…we shall see.
With Governor Moonbeam at the helm, there is no hope for California now. I fear the tipping point has been passed. If I still lived there today, I would be making plans to leave, along with the other people who flee California every day (read the comments). Not to mention the businesses.

As someone posted online, it it is now up to the heartland between the coasts to save the country. We'll do our best. And we invite all you wiser refugees from the Peoples Republics of the Right and Left Coasts to give us a hand.

See also: "A State in the Rear View Mirror" from the LA Times, December 2008. Prospects are looking much worse for California now.

In the words of the grape farmer of Selma (aka Prof. Victor Davis Hanson):

In California, there is some irony: The philosophy that led the state to the highest tax rates in the country, along with the near-worst schools, largest deficits, and most crumbling infrastructure, was reaffirmed. Now California’s state government will have to deal with the reality that if the highest-tax state in the union raises taxes still higher, it will lose even more high earners than the current 3,000 who leave each week. A Republican Congress is not likely to bail out a bankrupt California. More likely, we will see even more of the present ad hoc government-by-euphemism. More “furloughs” instead of pay cuts for unionized public employees, “temporary” larger class sizes in the schools, more “user fees” imposed by executive order in lieu of getting new taxes passed.

The state will continue to descend into a pyramidal society. On top there is the wealthy, leftist coastal elite from Napa to Hollywood, which is seemingly immune from the effects of high taxes and regulation (and wants more green laws, gay marriage, abortion, and therapeutic bromides). The top of the pyramid is in league with a growing underclass in part dependent upon a huge entitlement industry; this coalition thus favors more taxes, entitlements, unionized public employees, open borders, etc. Meanwhile, a squeezed middle-class private sector is slowly being strangled, shutting down, and leaving.

Perfect. Just the kind of society socialists want--workers at the bottom and elitists on top.

UPDATE: Here's another consequence for California from Tuesday's election day.

UPDATE: Need a relocation coach? Scroll down to see all the businesses that have left California.

UPDATE: No bailouts for California!! Let the Democrats and the people who voted for this mess stew in their own juice.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The most important election day in my life?

That's what many have been saying, and I tend to agree with them. Neal Boortz calls today's election "the ultimate march on Washington."

Do you think they will hear us now? We are sending a message to Obama and all Democrats: we've heard your message and your plans. Don't worry, we understand them. We understand them better than you do. We reject them. And we reject you for calling us stupid, ungrateful, racists. Your Keynesian, progressive, Big Government ideas don't work and they are destroying our economy, our country, and our kids' future. Get out and if the door slams your behinds, we won't be crying for you.

Our work has only begun. And we will need to keep riding the Republicans in office just as much as we are riding the Democrats. Turning over the keys to public office is a powerfully corrupting force. That's why the strictly limited government envisioned and provided for by our nation's Founders was the best of all possible worlds given human nature which they knew so well.

I've been reading about Calvin Coolidge--now there was a President who understood his place in the Federal government. Not perfectly, but he most times stood back and said, "That is not my job to handle or to solve." What a breath of fresh air in these suffocating times of power-grabbing Federal dictators.

I've already voted. Last week I went on two different days to advance voting. The turnout there was tremendous, like I've never seen. The first time there were no available parking spaces and I had to leave without voting. The second time I went I found one of the last parking spaces and took it, then stood in line with my fellow citizens for 25 minutes to cast my votes. The line extended out the door of the building. The crowd was congenial and patient. In fact, lots of people seemed to be appearing there and voting with relish--or with grim determination (which was the look on the face of one man wearing a "Don't Tread on Me" Gasden flag t-shirt as he left the poll). Today, having done my duty, I can spend a few fun hours with my daughter (who is out of school today) at the art museum.

Go, my fellow Americans. Cast your sacred votes with relish and determination. Show them what a mistake happened in 2008, and that we know better now. Democrats, can you hear us yet?

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Democrats = creepy

Maybe it's just Halloween weekend, but does anybody else besides me feel more than usually creeped out by our President, our most recent Democrat Past President, the current Democrat administration, Democrats in office around the land, and leftists in general?

Does anybody else feel it's really icky for a sitting President to be non-stop campaigning in such a partisan fashion as Obama is doing now instead of staying home and governing Presidentially from the Oval Office where he belongs? Something about this campaigning seems so anti-Presidential and over-the-top inappropriate.

And the performance of Bill Clinton on the campaign trail is utterly shameful and without excuse. He has spit in the face of our country's tradition of past Presidents maintaining self-respecting and respectful non-partisan roles in private life following their Presidencies. But spitting in the face of tradition and what's appropriate to the office of President is Bill Clinton's schtick, after all. He lives up to it beautifully. Always surprising, that man, in how low he'll go.

But that's indicative of Democrats and leftists in general. You just can't keep up with all the creative ways they are willing to break rules, screw things up, cheat, lie, and steal. I can't imagine why anybody still wants to self-identify with that brand.

Evidently more men than women are getting that message and dropping their support for the Dems right now. Yet women are a force in driving the tea parties and the conservative branch of the GOP as well, along with minorities. I am glad to see that.

UPDATE: Not really related, but just too funny! -- Negative attack ads circa 1800 (via Ace of Spades HQ).

UPDATE: An Appeal to Black Voters!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The results are in!

I took the test and I am a Social Liberal (63% permissive) and an Economic Conservative (83% permissive). I am a "LIBERTARIAN." Funny, though, I do think of myself as more of a Conservative (because I support the War on Terror beyond our borders and I am not into drugs and think children need special protections), but I suppose most Conservatives are more traditionally stodgy about the free will of the individual than I am.

Take the test yourself here. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ)

I also guessed right 87% of the time on who's gay in the Gaydar Test. Where'd that skill come from??

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Monday, October 25, 2010

The 1960s revisited

Yesterday felt sort of empty since there was no new "Mad Men" episode to watch at the end of the day--the fourth season of 13 episodes each just ended last week. I have become a semi-reluctant, conflicted watcher of "Mad Men" after being sucked into the earlier seasons of the show on DVDs by my son and husband. I say conflicted because even while I admire the writing, the acting, and the production quality, and even though I look forward to finding out what would happen next in the plot ("Mad Men" is nothing if not a high-quality soap opera), almost all of the characters are--let's say--less than admirable people and it is hard for me to--let's say--psychologically "root for" anybody on that show. It also frequently makes me feel uncomfortable with its graphic sex scenes. It is definitely not a family or feel-good show. It is, however, a remarkable (and often startling, disturbing, and nostalgic) depiction of certain aspects of the early 1960s.

My husband and my daughter and I are also currently watching via Netflix a definitely family-friendly and feel-good show of the genuine early 1960s--"The Dick Van Dyke Show" (also available at Hulu). This comedy was a fixture in reruns of my youth, and I must have seen almost all of the episodes at one time or another, many years back. Now, watching them again as an adult, in proper sequence, is a revelation and a real pleasure. My daughter, who has not seen these episodes before, and I are frequently howling with laughter at the humorous writing and the amazing physical comedy of Dick Van Dyke (acolyte of Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel). What a talent he was! The cast worked like a well-oiled machine, the writing was stellar, and it boggles the mind to realize that Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, and the rest of the company turned out over 30 weekly episodes for five years, of such consistent high quality and originality. Best of all, it is so likeable.

What a contrast in television fare--and in zeitgeist--between then and now. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" provides an antidote and a counterpoint to "Mad Men," on lots of levels--including my personal favorite: in Laura Petrie I find a very favorable and positive take on a realistic, attractive, happily traditional housewife in a loving, affectionate and successful marriage. There's a role model I can root for! Plus, I like her Sixties "flip" hairdo (the word we used back then before "hairstyle" came in with Farrah Fawcett). There wouldn't be a Peggy Olson if there hadn't been a Laura Petrie.

I also enjoy watching these early guest appearances of celebrities like Danny Thomas, Richard Dawson, Robert Vaughn, J.C. Flippen, and Jerry Van Dyke. And it's funny to realize now that in writing the character of little Richie, Carl Reiner was writing from life about his own son, the future "Meathead" (Speaking of Meathead--it's definitely not the Sixties anymore).

To top things off, I am also in the process of scanning and digitizing the snapshots from my mother's old family photo albums. For some reason I seem to be fated to steep in the Sixties right now--a time when cars had no seatbelts and little girls wore frilly dresses to slide down slides:

My memories of the early Sixties were more Rob and Laura Petrie than Don and Betty Draper. But then, we didn't live anywhere near Madison Avenue or Hollywood back then.

The late Sixties, after 1968--that's a whole n'other story, isn't it.

BONUS: My husband found this 2.5-hour interview of Dick Van Dyke at the Archive of American Television, a pretty sweet website. Poke around there and you can learn a lot of good backstories.

UPDATE: Alex Anderson, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle, just died. (Hat tip to the Stodgy Geezer.) Those cartoon characters I remember well were another icon of the early 1960s.

UPDATE: Is "Mad Men" TV's most feminist show? I'd call it TV's most high-quality theoretical feminist historical dream of "how it was"--perhaps a slice of life for some--but not necessarily how it really was.

RELATED: A nice look back at Barbara Billingsly and June Cleaver.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

15 Books in 15 Minutes (I cheated)

There's been a blogger/Facebook meme going around about making a list of 15 books in 15 minutes--books you've read that have "stuck with" you over your life. Here's my list, in the order in which they occurred to me. The top four are on my all-time list of hands-down most "sticky," influential books in my own life:

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

3/4. Atlas Shrugged and We the Living by Ayn Rand (also her other novels and writings)

5. My Brother's Keeper by Marcia Davenport (also her other novels, her biography of Mozart, and her autobiography)

6/7. 1776 and John Adams by David McCullough

8. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

9/12. Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear by William Shakespeare (and his other work)

13/15. From Bauhaus to Our House, The Painted Word, and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (and his other work)

16/17. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (and his other work)

18. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon (I liked him better than Jack Kerouac)

19. Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (I'm dating myself here)

20. Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

21. Our Town by Thornton Wilder

22. Ethnic America, a History by Thomas Sowell (also his other books and autobiography)

23. I Passed as a Teenager by Lyn Tornabene

24. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer

25. Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

26. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

27. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Quite a jumble. This exercise brings to mind very pleasant memories of years of reading binges in my long-distant past, including also the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, James Michener, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Theodore Dreiser, Henry James, Homer (in the Fitzgerald translation) and Dr. Seuss. In fact, there have been so many favorite authors and favorite books in my long life that I am sure I have now forgotten the bulk of the individual titles. This exercise is just a poor, momentary effort made to beat the clock. But on reflection: what a fantastic heritage I've been able to enjoy!

(The links to books above are informational only, not an endorsement of specific individual purchases at I am very keen on Amazon as a satisfied customer of several years. I have received no subsidies from anyone to say this and in fact receive no subsidies whatsoever as a blogger, not counting my husband's paying the electricity and computer bills.)

Next: 15 Films in 15 Minutes

UPDATE: I keep wondering if schools still turn out "English majors" (do they even call them that anymore?) who read works by "dead white men" as I did--or am I a dying breed? (I am sure that somewhere the ghost of a 19th-century scholar is lamenting that I didn't read enough Virgil and Cicero in the original Latin.) I just hope the California taxpayers who paid my way to college in the 1970s feel that they got their money's worth. And what, if anything, do I owe them in return?


Monday, September 27, 2010

Volunteering for the November elections

"Ranting is okay. But what are we going to, concretely, DO?"

As a proud tea partier, there is no lack of ways or places I can volunteer in the next few weeks before the November 2010 mid-term elections. In fact, it is a matter of not having enough time to do all I want to do (let alone blog about it). Fortunately there are a lot of ordinary conservatives of all ages, just like me, who are stepping forward to put their principles into action, fighting AGAINST outright Marxism and creeping nanny-state socialism and fighting FOR smaller government, lower taxes, and more liberty for the American people. We the ordinary people of America will turn back the tide this November.

See the websites of Americans For Prosperity, for Freedom Works, and/or for the Tea Party Patriots for ways you can network and volunteer with your neighbors, including door-to-door visits, poll-watching, and personal calls--the "boots on the ground" campaign in the next few weeks.

There are many conservative challengers running for office who could really use a few bucks. (Here are a few more.) Help them out. I've been sending small donations nationwide for the first time in my life--the stakes warrant it. Our family's affected--and invested.

If you are so inclined (or skilled) you can also make some videos.

Next election, you can even consider running for local precinct committeeman.

There is much to be done, and much that can be done, and fortunately, no one of us has to do it all because, for the first time in history, so much of us are doing so much.

UPDATE: Get off the couch!

UPDATE: Be the wave!

UPDATE: Voter fraud watch: you can help. It's a serious problem perpetrated nationwide by Democrats.

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